MULTIVERSE

The multiverse concept gained huge popularity over the last years. The idea that along our dimension countless other universes exist is an old one. It appeared in theoretical science for some time but even the Ancient Greek philosophers had already similar ideas. But it isn’t science in the first place, it is popular storytelling in films and series which accelerated multiverse concepts as new world views.

The Rise Of The Multiverse

The idea of parallel universes in films or series centres around the idea that there are several or countless universes which showcase different “possible” realities. Sometimes this universes are very similar, sometimes the show very different options or alternative realities different from our ordinary reality. Famous Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh (Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger, James Bond) seems to have a special relationship with multiverse concepts in film and TV: She was an outstanding character in Star Trek – Discovery where she appears as Emperor Philippa Georgiou in the mirror universe of the Terrans. In the first place in the normal universe she was a Starfleet commander and mentor of Michael Burnham, the main character. Now, Michelle Yeoh is the lead actor in the successful movie “Everything Everywhere All At Once” where she has to face more than two different universes. The appeal of the movie is related to the old “what if?” idea: The heroine, a Chinese migrant, explores the other lives in other universes she could have lived but did not in her normal universe where she comes from.

What if our everyday reality is only a realisation of one of many options, and what if we could flip through different “timelines” of our lives as we flip through different TV-channels in the evening?

The concept of the multiverse attracts writers as audiences because it allows you to play around with different possibilities of one and the same thing. In Star Trek Georgiou is a positive figure in the “normal universe” but appears as a completely different character in the Terran parallel universe. The character changes over time and one typical aspect is the implication that the character in the parallel universe represents hidden aspects of the character in the normal universes.

Both in the movie and in the Star Trek series there are travellers between the different universes. In many of theses movies portals or hidden trapdoors allow the actors to slip through between different worlds. And it is also always an interesting question if and how the different universes interact. Another very common idea in storytelling is that something which happens in one universe can have an effect in another universe.

I think one reason why we embrace the multiverse concept is there is that ever present secret wish that we could change the course of our lives if we could go backwards in time. Avoid the things we regret later. Avoid the mistakes. Experience that one alternative possibility, that path we didn’t chose but is still in our heads. But we would like to have that backdoor too, which allows us to continue our normal lives.

Is the idea of the multiverse only a concept for shows to have more options in storytelling?

At the moment the question if the multiverse really exists is theoretical. Even there are news announcements from time to time about some “discovery” there is no definite proof all scientists would agree with. That’s something physicist Clifford V. Johnson said in a recent interview on the Science and Entertainment YT Channel.

Nevertheless there are numerous multiverse concepts in science. This seems like a logical development since we see an expanse of our idea of the universe. We discovered that our planet is not the only one and not the center of the universe, later we discovered there are countless of galaxies and we find more and more exoplanets every day. Why not having parallel universes? The other idea is the quantum multiverse. Quantum physics suggests these possibilities.

Evidence in a normal sense might be a difficult thing to come by. However, the concept of a multiverse is real because we can relate to it. Most people would agree that they only exist in our universe but for example dreams suggest sometimes different realities with different options. What would have happened if…? It is normal that we create that type of multiverse in our imagination. These are alternative universes which are very similar to our own. And then there are these countless mysterious stories all around the world. From people who vanished and suddenly where back. Maybe there are glitches in our reality where the boundaries between different universes are momentarily blurred.

There are many more ideas out there. What about a multiverse where time runs backwards Perhaps our laws of nature do not apply there? Or our logic might not work? Thus, the multiverse concepts are not so far away from the idea of the otherworld. Otherworld concept in different cultures are full of fantastic dimensions which work in a complete different way as our common everyday world.

As with the otherworld we should ask, where are these other universes? Are there far away or are they right here? Do they overlap with our ordinary reality? Or is it impossible to cross from one universe to another?

Again, contemporary science might not give us the answers we are seeking for. There are certainly yet many theories out there which might be proven some day. What we have is the imagination and the hints of a deeper reality. It is the idea of a deeper reality as represented in the outstanding series Twin Peaks – The Return. A multiverse would be a very helpful model to interpret the different interwoven timelines in David Lynch’s and Mark Frost’s masterpiece. However, there is an important thing here which makes a difference if we compare it to Marvel movies presenting a multiverse. It is not like different levels in a game. It keeps its mystery. A thing I am working on with the Forest Dark Movie project too. Keeping the true nature of the multiverse a mystery. Because this is what it will be for us. We might get to a more complex worldview in time. But we shouldn’t go for a reductionist model of the world. If we see it as a fantastic and mysterious world we might be as close to the truth as we can ever hope for.

Peter Engelmann, May 24, 2022

Under The Spell

The offender always returns to the place of the crime.
It seems the same applies to supernatural writers, researchers in search of the unknown and people who had encounters with strange phenomena. We can’t explain our passion but we know we need to do this, there isn’t much choise. We’re under the spell.

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Writers and film makers taking the supernatural seriously get often asked why they pursue difficult projects rather than doing something where you could make money more easily. Even it’s true that genre stuff is supposed to be “profitable” which usually means that it is something which could be done for low budget but has a potential for high revenues. This might be the case for some horror pics with easy-to-grasp concepts however many artists who have a real interest in the otherworld (or simply asking questions about our view of reality) suffer. They choose the hard way. But these are the most committed people, they are prepared to work hard for a long time without knowing about their chance for success.

The same applies to researchers, philosophers and scientists. A profound interest in the otherworld is certainly not the best choice to make a career. We should think that the investigation of phenomena we don’t yet understand is science at its best, but the researcher is often being caught in the middle. They aren’t trusted any longer by the “serious scientific community” and they make often many enemies among the “believers”. They get in trouble with the powerful, become blacklisted by politicians and sinister organizations. The work of a researcher like Jacques Vallée who kept a diary for over 40 years and continuosly published interesting insights about the unexplained couldn’t be praised enough. There aren’t many of them but those who are interested in the otherworld are highly committed people.

If somebody had a weird experience in the woods, had a strange encounter or was somehow involved in strange events we would expect that this person would leave the place where it happened, move into a big city or even another country. But we know that people who had encounters with the otherworld are changed. They return either to the place or become reseachers, lecturers or help other people with similar experiences. They are obsessed in their own way.

Once touched by the otherworld we’re under the spell. Its a bit like becoming involved with the demonic principle. In the same breath we are drown towards the unknown as we wan’t to escape the otherworld. But the artist is dedicated to paint that picture. It might look for outsiders that the artist of the supernatural seems to paint the same picture again and again.

This is not the case. The researcher and the artist or writer and film-maker are sitting in the same boat; it is their quest for the unknown. And like a Tibetan monk repeating the same rituals the researcher studies similar cases again and again, and the storyteller is writing many stories but the stories are all about the same theme. People who had visionary experiences return to places or remember things at certain times every year. However this isn’t about repeating the same thing, it is always about progress, about deepening our understanding, even sometimes in very small steps.

There is an interesting question how much freedom people do really have if they take the challenge seriously. However the creative process itself can be an act of freedom. It’s a chance to redeem the demons. And it can be step forward to understand. The people drawn towards the otherworld or towards the fundamental questions about our reality were always a minority. It’s astonishing that a lot of people can watch endless hours of stuff about zombies, vampires, witches and never ask for one second what’s really going on.




We can’t explain why we are into a deeper reality. Perhaps this is something which couldn’t be explained. It is indeed like the demonic principle, something which works beyond our understanding. And if we look at people who had experiences with the paranormal or some encounters we can’t tell why they were chosen. Human history is full of people who had a very different background and then become changed through visionary experience. The only thing we know is that there are no simple answers, but it appears there must kind of a link between certain artists, researchers and visionaries. It’s like they had at some point in their lives seen, felt or heard the same thing, some sort of hidden reality and they got a call to tell the world.

Magical Realism As An Expression Of A Deeper Reality

The Question is not, “is it real” or is it magic”, it is about finding magic in the mundane.

Magical realism can call on folk-lore and myth to question the true nature of reality. Forest-horror-stories are often stories of this type of magical realism, and this is also what I am aiming for in my own work.

The magical elements are as natural as the everyday world in this genre. The term was originally coined by Franz Roh for an exhibition called “Neue Sachlichkeit” in the 1920ties.

Magical Realism is often connected with South-American literature and describes books or movies with magical elements or a dreamlike-landscape.

Sometimes magical realism is used as toolbox by romantic comedy writers to set up a story – like the lightning stroke making the main character capable to understand what women think – but that’s not what magical realism is really about.

 
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The mother of all magical realism stories on TV is “Twin Peaks” with its credo “The Owls Are Not What They Seem”. Here the magical reality becomes a form of hyper realism: it feels for some folks more real as our limited everyday reality experience. “Twin Peaks” and other great series/movies/books abandon our model of physical reality. However they don’t reveal the mechanics of an alternative model of physical reality like the 5th dimension in “Interstellar”.

“Twin Peaks” interacts with the viewer in a much deeper sense. It reminds us about a daimonic reality where strong hidden forces rule our lives behind the curtain of ordinary reality. We do know about this daimonic reality but is something which became suppressed in our times.

In the best of all cases the magical elements in a magical realism story doesn’t appear like some writer’s invention or something with is kind of an appendix. Magical Realism can reveal what we usually don’t see, something which we are not supposed to see.

I had always a weird comparison in mind: Our reality is perhaps like the layers in the photoshop software: Normally we can only see the surface (the image on top of a pile of images and layers) but with certain techniques the surface (or the picture on top) becomes transparent and you can see what is beyond. If you work with layers in photoshop software you can reveal something which is normally not visible. David Lynch is doing this in his films: He scratches on the surface layer and reveals for a glimpse what lies beneath.

Unraveling the myth behind our reality is more about revelation rather than an invention of fictional ideas or mere fantasies.




I don’t think we need necessarily alternative models of physical reality to get to the hidden layers in our plane of reality. It is what a good story can do. It also happens in real life. The many cases of unexplained phenomena discussed earlier could be also sudden appearances of hidden layers.

Usually we can’t see what’s really going on. Our models are always inconsistent or tend to driven either by anthropocentric biases or scientific assumptions. Nobody can tell us the truth, but we can try to create something which feels right. Even we don’t admit it we often quietly accept a different idea of reality where our destinies are driven by mythical forces when we watch certain series or movies; there are often three levels in series like “Game Of Thrones” or “Twin Peaks”: action and relationship development, everyday events, then there is politics and undercurrents in society affecting characters and deep down there are powerful myths at work.

Perhaps we need to re-discover the magical dimension of our lives not only in TV-series but also in real life.

Indeed the most fascinating thing is that magical realism or fantastic realism has its roots not in fiction but in reality. Long before the first official UFO-sightings Charles Hoy Fort wrote his “Book Of The Damned”. Fort is quite simple the “Father Of X-Files”: he was a collector of “damned data”, of events or things which were excluded by official science: “A procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.” (Charles Ford, Book Of The Damned). He was motivated by criticism of the mainstream science. He saw the problem of reductionism in science very early, and his “damned data” are kind of a provocation, like the rat on the table in a clean house.

His book is a ride into a rich world full of weird phenomena. It tells us stories about raining frogs and mysterious disappearances, thunder-stones and much more. Fort didn’t invent these reports. He was looking through weather reports and piles of newspaper articles. He worked for years but wasn’t a simple believer in the fantastic. He is basically a sceptic. He simply demanded open-mindedness. Often he expresses a certain irony about the weirdness of a phenomenon and the even weirder explanations.

There may be a good reason for keeping his distance: investigating phenomena of “high strangeness” is like crawling through quicksand. It’s terribly difficult to find out what exactly has happened and the search for the truth becomes more and more complicated. This is perhaps because this phenomena happen in the realm of “magical realism”. It’s hard to say how much phenomena of “high strangeness” depend on the witness, but they seem to be strongly connected to a certain atmosphere and character (remember the fish in the coffee-filter in the legendary Twin Peaks Pilot?).

However most of all, Charles Ford wasn’t after the proof for the existence of a ghost or the “shower of jellyfish”, which happened in Bath near the Main Station on April 1871 for example. He didn’t believe in any theories or models about our physical reality. His damned data are supposed to say think twice before you believe in anything.

There seems only one idea running through his work expressed by John Michell that our whole existence is an organism. The universe is a living organism. If we think of the Universe as an organism we would indeed live in a world of magical realism.

The forest is a good place for getting a feeling for this idea, both in a literal sense and in a metaphorical sense. It is like one big organism. It is not possible to reveal that organism in a simple model of physical reality. It remains a mystery like a forest dark with an endless number of secrets. That’s what for example “Twin Peaks” is about and what make it a true “forest story”. The idea of a living universe full of consciousness as a background of the mystical aspects of our life is also rooted in ancient mythology and philosophy.

If we open our eyes and ears we may find the magical reality which the forest actually is. There is a surface, and at certain times a window open up showing us what’s behind the curtain.

Otherworldly Traps

“ROSLIN
Things. The forest is showing me…
Things…”(The Forest Dark Screenplay)

People getting lost or people losing their wits after they entered a dark place in the forest. Are there supernatural traps hidden in certain places in this world?


In fairy tales the trap is a very prominently motive. Writers were fascinated by these folclore stories. There are famous works particularly in the period of romanticism. An example which was described earlier is the “Runenberg“.

Another well-known trap is the court of venus, “Venusberg”. These traps lure the wanderer into another realm. The man who can’t resist will finally lose everything.

These kind of “erotic traps” use temptation. Of course, this is something which works very well in a number of stories.

However it’s indeed primary a literal motive not a very realistic one.

We don’t expect a beautiful fairy queen tempting us to walk straight into a rift in time and space when we enter the woods.

Otherworldly traps are perhaps something which works in a more subtle way. Nevertheless these kind of traps could be very powerful and dangerous.

It seems that there are places in this world were people lose their orientation or get depressed. The perfect description of this kind of otherworldly trap could be found in Algernoon Blackwood’s “The Willows” where two wanderers get maddened by a supernatural force and one of them is close to committing suicide.

“The Willows” is also a fictional supernatural tale but what happens could be closer to what’s really going on. Every year a number of hikers vanish mysteriously. In most cases there are very rational explanations for what has happened with these persons, but some cases remain unsolved. There are areas which have a reputation for this like “The Bennington Triangle”. According to the Indians the woods are cursed in this territory in Vermont.

I think there are two ways to make you losing your wits. If there are forces which could look deeply into the soul of a person these forces will find the weak spot. They will hit you on the most personal level. The other way is showing you disturbing things, things which are somehow not right, something like H.P. Lovecraft’s “Color From Outer Space”.

These kind of phenomena exist. There were described for example in “Dangerous Lights”. Obviously, they act more on a psychological level. They are happen in a realm somewhere in-between the physical world and the inner-life of a person.





Getting into the mind of a person is the most efficient way how a trap could work. The purpose of the trap it to break somebody’s will. Without a strong will we are an easy prey for whatever lurks in the forest. As soon as we are depressed and disoriented we’re lost. Sometimes the victim returns but is changed forever.

Peter Weir’s famous movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” describes the mysterious disappearance of a group of girls in the Australian outback. One of the victims returns but cannot describe what happened. The girl is changed and cannot remember anything.

The movie is based on a novel which is fiction but played around with the “based on a true story” pattern. The ending was left open for interpretation but the otherworldy quality of the “Hanging rock”, which exists, is a dominant motive. There are hints that it is the special quality or power of place itself which is responsible for the events.

This story is a very good example for a supernatural trap. It’s like a paradigm. We find similar stories surrounding other notorious place like Freetown-Fall River State Forest. In this case the forest itself seems to be the trap, like the famous woods in the Blairwitch-Movies.